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Jul 13 2010

Part 2: Hybrid 2.0 – Leveraging Citizen Engagement for Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recover


Topics: Social Media

In my previous blog post, Hybrid 2.0 – How to leverage social media for emergency management and response, I discussed two existing models for the use of social media in open government:

  • For use in public communication and collaboration: communication among citizens and with the public, leveraged by government agencies and non-profit organizations like Crisis Commons.
  • For use in the enterprise: secure communication between agencies, with employees, etc.

Again, the need for an additional model, what I am now calling Hybrid 2.0, remains increasingly clear for communication relating to public safety, including preparedness, response, and recovery. Non-profits like Crisis Commons, Ushahidi, and other crowd sourcing data collection efforts are proving extremely helpful in leveraging citizen engagement to gather data both for daily use and in emergencies. Additionally, their respective visualization tools are making it easier to understand trends and gather situational awareness surrounding specific issues and events. The success of projects like these is a direct result of the increasingly popular concept of collective intelligence and open source technology.

I believe the emergency communications landscape can be divided into three main stakeholders: the citizen, public systems, and government. Each stakeholder pulls and pushes data and information through a variety of channels and for a variety of reasons, specifically:

The citizen: Leverages public tools including social media, websites, SMS, etc. to communicate with other citizens, to gather information from public systems via publicly available visualization tools, and to report to the government via 911, 311, or other government-provided reporting systems.

Public Systems: Operated by non-profits, non-governmental organizations, etc., public systems provide a means for collecting and aggregating information and data while simultaneously providing results via visualization tools that are openly available on the internet and through social media.

Government: Communicates internally through closed and/or proprietary systems for official response while communicating with the public via social media and more traditional alert/notification systems like the Emergency Broadcast system, sirens, email lists, SMS, etc., and collect/aggregate data for the purposes of response via 911, 311,etc.

While each stakeholder leverages different tools for different purposes, the intended outcome is often one in the same: communication and education (preparedness), situational awareness, response, and recovery.

Now imagine if emergency organizations, whether government or non-government, could leverage the data collected via crowd sourcing from both citizens and public systems, for use in situational awareness, preparedness, response, and recovery. Furthermore, imagine if by partnering with public systems, government agencies could identify and correct misinformation faster than before while using fewer resources (see Real Live Misinformation in Action – Oil Spill Rumors at The implications of doing so are so great that I believe it is now necessary to develop a paradigm from which to model future public-private partnerships in emergency management.

Again, in developing such a paradigm, I must address the associated challenges:

  • Veracity of content;
  • Resources required to manage data collection and analysis;
  • Resources required to authenticate collected data and resulting analysis;
  • Security of information leveraged for official response efforts;
  • Integration of awareness, alert, and notification communication channels; and
  • A lack of policy addressing the implementation, management, and maintenance of all of the above.

To successfully address each of these challenges, an additional layer is necessary; one that bridges government and non-government efforts by supporting each. This is the Hybrid 2.0 model.

The Hybrid 2.0 model must combine internal solutions, behind a firewall for internal communication and operations, while simultaneously integrating and leveraging external, public solutions for outreach and communication. Additionally, the Hybrid 2.0 model must include data that is collected both via official and public channels. The Hybrid 2.0 model must provide a means for authentication and verification of all messaging and data collected from public systems, to ensure that all data collected is accurate before analyzed and disseminated.

Should the Hybrid 2.0 model become an additional stakeholder, or simply a collaborative effort between two or more existing stakeholders, only time will tell? In the mean time, I believe government agencies will begin to utilize crowd-sourced data and publicly available visualization tools more and more. The value of the data is far too great to ignore.

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